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Back-to-school tips to keep your kids happy and healthy

It’s that time of year! Back to school! With the kids heading back to the classroom this month, I felt it was a great opportunity to discuss a few back-to-school tips.


First, let’s look at backpacks. Have you ever moved your child’s backpack and wondered what the heck they have in there? I know I have! A backpack that is too heavy for your child can have some unwanted effects such as back pain, shoulder pain, numbness and tingling, and poor posture. To avoid these symptoms it is recommend that a backpack weigh no more than 10-15 percent of a child’s body weight.

Other things to look for in a backpack should be:

  • Wide, padded shoulder straps

  • Chest and waist belts to help distribute the weight

  • Padded back

  • Lightweight

  • Multiple compartments

  • Appropriate in size. A backpack should not hang more than 2-4 inches below the waist.

It is important when loading a backpack to carry only the things needed for the day and to put the heavier items toward the bottom center of the bag. Children should also be reminded to lift with their knees when picking it up and to tell a parent if any pain begins.


Sleep is also an important back-to-school topic. While most adults get sleepy and slow down when they’re tired, lack of sleep can have the opposite effect on children. Kids can become hyper, irritable, have difficulty concentrating and act out when they’re tired. Sleep deprivation can even cause more serious health concerns such as hypertension, obesity, headaches and depression. Children who get enough sleep typically perform better in school and are sick less frequently.

A good recommendation for sleep is as follows:

  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) between 10-13 hours

  • Grade schoolers (ages 6-12) between 9-12 hours

  • Teens (ages 13-18) between 8-10 hours

Here are some tips to help develop healthy sleep patterns.

  • Be active during the day. Kids thrive on physical activity and the more they do the easier it will be for them to get a good night’s sleep.

  • Turn off those screens! It is important to keep screens out of the bedrooms as well as turn them off at least one hour before bedtime.

  • Set a routine. Developing good routines for sleep times, wake times and even meal and play times will help with a smooth bedtime.

  • Take away the distractions. For young children especially, the bed should be for sleep only. Try and avoid toys and playing in the bed.

  • Darker and cooler are better. Turn off those lights and keep those temperatures cooler to promote sleep.


Finally, let’s take a look at meal planning for school. It is proven that children who eat a healthy breakfast do better in school and have more energy to get through the day. A good breakfast for kids should include a variety of food. Some good ideas are fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein (meat, poultry, eggs, nuts) and dairy (low fat or fat free milk, yogurt).

For those older kids who always seem to be in a hurry, there are some great on-the-go options such as fruit smoothies, hard boiled eggs, granola bars, dried or fresh fruit, and dried cereal. It is also important for kids to skip the coffee and energy drinks that can raise blood pressure and heart rate.

Snacks are an easy way to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables your kids are eating. Fruits and vegetables become even more exciting when you add a dip such as hummus, yogurt and even nut butters. Lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy can also make great snack options. Try to avoid processed foods that often do not contain many nutrients and are loaded with extra sugar and salt that can make kids feel hungry faster.

For lunch and dinner, it is vital that kids learn to “eat the rainbow.” Encourage them to make their plates colorful by adding lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Aim again for whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins. Eat a wide variety of meals to ensure your kids consume all the vital nutrients their bodies need.

And do not overlook portion sizes. Remember that the serving sizes on labels are based on a 2,000-calorie diet, which may not be suitable for children. Using smaller plates is a great way to keep portion sizes within reasonable limits.

Here’s to a happy and healthy school year!

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